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Smart Forecast

The profile of future smartphones is beginning to materialize.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the June 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Aren't cell phones great? Nothing beats them for voice calls. But being able to hum a few ring tones and store character-based games in memory doesn't exactly earn the label smart--even with a great camera thrown in. The average cell's not-so-graphical interface--lots of clicks down hierarchical menus--is positively Neanderthal. And data entry? Punch "7" four times for the letter s, eight times for capital S. Sorry, but you're really not so smart, phones.

If anyone is going to teach these savants new tricks, it will probably be Hewlett-Packard, says Todd Kort, mobile analyst for Gartner Inc. HP already has the fastest-selling family of smart PDAs, including the iPAQ h6315 smartphone for GSM/GPRS networks, and will soon add the iPAQ Mobile Messenger for broadband EDGE networks. It won't differ drastically from the h6315. Lay it alongside PalmOne's best-selling Treo 650, and the profile of future smartphones starts to materialize. Similarly snazzy in silver and blue, the h6315 has roughly the same knobs, navigation wheel and 6.5-ounce-ish weight as Treo, and is within a half-inch on every dimension. Both devices dial in at $500 to $600.

The major ergonomic difference is the h6315's detachable qwerty keyboard. It isn't as typable as the Treo's backlit and better-spaced alternative, but it isn't bad. (HP has announced the detachable keyboard won't be passed on to the Mobile Messenger, and some may miss it.) With its keyboard removed, the h6315's high-resolution, 65,000-color display gains another inch (diagonally). That might not sound like much. But you get a better view of spreadsheets and phone books--and after all, isn't access to your favorite desktop apps the main reason to buy a Pocket PC?

If there is a smartphone in your future, consider how you'll use it most: thumb-typing e-mails or reviewing and editing desktop spreadsheets and Word documents. If you're a volume message creator, you might prefer a real thumb-typer like the BlackBerry 7750 from Research in Motion. But Mobile Messenger will have both high-speed data and BlackBerry-like pushed e-mail.

The major problem with smartphones going forward: an embarrassment of choices.

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